Robert Saleh had just finished his daily news conference and was walking out the door when he was stopped and made aware of the virtual echo from his remarks.
He was trending on Twitter.
“Did I say something wrong?” he asked.
Quite the contrary.
Saleh has struck the perfect tone in just about every one of his remarks since he was hired as head coach of the Jets, and Wednesday was no exception.
In a matter of just a few minutes behind a podium he downplayed the drama with wide receiver Elijah Moore as best he could, backed quarterback Zach Wilson despite his lackluster stats, and trumpeted Sauce Gardner, who had just been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week, by practically begging opponents to keep throwing the ball in his direction.
“Keep trying him,” he said looking into the cameras.
He still had time to drop some clever takes on the upcoming opponent, including Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (calling him a “freakazoid”) and New England’s propensity for forcing and taking advantage of takeaways (saying they have been playing that way “for what seems like 100 years”).
He was even able to chuckle with embarrassment at what some might consider his biggest public foible on the job, his “receipts” quote from earlier this season, even though a month and a half later he and his team have backed up that talk.
“I kind of want it to go away,” he said of that remark. “I just want it to go away.”
It won’t, of course. It will live forever as part of Saleh’s fast-expanding persona that has been a perfect match for this team, this organization, and, increasingly, this fan base.
“You try your best to keep all the distractions on me and out of the locker room,” he said of his motive in front of any microphone. “That’s basically what my charge is, to keep the locker room clean so they can think fast and think free and think about football. Whatever I have to do to make sure that happens I’ll do.”
He is not as brash as Rex Ryan was. Who is? But he’s no less confident even if it isn’t enunciated in every other syllable.
He is not as reserved as Todd Bowles was, a coach who practically whispered his way through his tenure with the Jets, coaching as if the baby had just finally fallen asleep.
He is not as whatever it is that Adam Gase was.
He’s just himself. And he is becoming beloved for it.
“Hopefully, it stays that way and we get a Bill Belichick run,” he said of the positive vibes, hinting at the prospect of a decades-long stint and not, presumably, Belichick’s hours-long time in the job Saleh now holds.
Saleh didn’t know much about coaching this franchise in this market before he took the job and what it would mean to the area to give them something that resembles a winning product.
“You sit back and you realize all the bigwigs and all the media [executives], everyone is a Jets fan,” he said. “You go to Long Island and everyone is a Jets fan. You walk around Jersey and New York and everyone is a Jets fan. They’re proud no matter what. It makes you proud to wear the colors and proud to be a Jet.”
Now all he has to do to maintain the adoration is keep winning. Sunday will be a big test of that. The Jets face the Patriots, a team that has tormented those fans for the better part of this century. Many have tried to overtake the New England hex and many have failed. Saleh himself is 0-2 in his attempts so far.
A victory Sunday would be the Jets’ first against the Patriots since Week 15 of the 2015 season. Nothing Saleh says will endear him more than producing such a triumph. Until the following week when the Jets take on the Bills. Then face the Patriots again after their bye. Then push through November and December toward the playoffs.
That, he knows, is the only trending that really matters.